Democracy needs small units of governance to work: Abhijit Banerjee

For India’s democracy to truly work, smaller units of governance are needed, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee said on Friday.

“There is a fundamental problem in the design of our democracy which is that our states are too big. We have twenty times more seats in Parliament than the United Kingdom,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee was delivering the commemorative lecture at the 27th Justice Sunanda Bhandar on “Democracy on the Ground: What Works, What Doesn’t and Why?”

Banerjee said that although India has 20 times the population of the UK, the UK Parliament has 656 seats compared to India’s 543 seats. He argued that the sheer size makes it difficult for all voters to access information about their legislators.

Citing her field experiments on Delhi municipal elections, Banerjee said that if voters are given information about the performance of elected officials, their voting patterns change. “There is nothing that an MLA does that can really reach you (voters). Hence, leaders on the ground hardly matter to our voters. This is a structural problem of our democracy,” Banerjee said.

Supreme Court Justice Hima Kohli also spoke on the occasion, recounting her memories of Justice Bhandar. “Few people know that she joined a law college after marriage and enrolled with the Maharashtra Bar Council when she was a mother of two,” Justice Kohli said.

Justice Bhandare was a former judge of the Delhi High Court who died in office at the age of 52.

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